The County Connection

Lina Hidalgo | Harris County Judge

June 2022

Over the past month, our nation has yet again endured violent deaths from mass shootings and gun violence. In Buffalo, we all witnessed the brutal attack driven by racism and hate that left 13 people dead at a grocery store. 17 people were shot during a mass shooting in downtown Milwaukee. And we are all still mourning the loss of two teachers and 19 innocent children murdered at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. This violence shows no sign of letting up  – between May 24th, the day of the Uvalde tragedy, and June 6th, there have been 33 additional mass shootings, including multiple mass shootings here in Harris County. No one is immune from this bloody plague.

Today, our nation and our county is in the midst of a vital conversation about violent crime and what needs to be done to prevent it. The truth is, we cannot talk about addressing violent crime without talking about the role that guns play in fueling it. On the same day as the tragedy in Uvalde, we released new data from Harris County’s Institute for Forensic Sciences from which the conclusion could not be more clear – we are not just suffering from a rise in homicides, but also from a rise in the percentage of homicides caused by guns. In 2018, gunshot wounds caused 76% of homicides in Harris County. In 2021, that number was 84%. This year’s percentage is at 87%. And we aren’t unique. Statewide, the rate of gun homicides in Texas increased 90% between 2011 and 2020, from a little over 3 deaths per 100,000 people to about 6 deaths per 100,000.

You’d think after decades of enduring tragedy after tragedy, our nation and our state would have had enough and passed common sense gun safety laws to save lives. But no. Texas has actually moved in the opposite direction and eliminated some of the few common sense gun regulations we had. Last year our state legislature passed an extreme permitless carry law which makes it legal to carry a concealed weapon without training or a permit. And yet, polls show a broad coalition of Americans oppose permitless carry and support background checks and other common sense gun safety initiatives. The majority of Americans know that when it comes to fighting violent crime, keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people is an essential part of the solution.

So we must continue fighting every way we can here at the County level. We’ve made historic investments to fund law enforcement and other smart-and-tough on crime initiatives in Harris County. Our $1.4 billion budget for justice and safety this year is bigger than any other time in Harris County history. We’re also investing in youth crime prevention initiatives and targeted enforcement in high crime micro-zones. We’re addressing blight and pushing to shrink our criminal court backlog. We’ve also worked with law enforcement and other anti-crime groups like Moms Demand Action to educate the community about how to store guns safely and distribute gun locks. And on the same day we lost 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Harris County Commissioner’s Court declared June Gun Violence Prevention Month in Harris County to honor victims of these senseless tragedies.

We’ll never stop pushing our state legislature and congress to do what is right – to act to stop our children, our family, our best friends, our neighbors from being murdered by weapons of war in schools, grocery stores, movie theaters, churches, or anywhere else you can imagine.


Lina Hidalgo

County News


Prepare Now for Extreme Heat This Summer!

Ask anyone in Harris County and they will tell you it’s HOT outside. The normal June high temperature is 92 degrees, but last week has seen multiple days with a high of 102. And forecasters are also predicting a hotter than normal summer this year. Our reality here in Harris County, along with what we’re seeing across the nation, is that severe weather is more and more a new normal we have to get used to. And although we cannot prevent disasters from happening, we can be as prepared as possible.

And Harris County’s Emergency Management Team works on that every day – our battle-tested professionals have been planning and training all year long on how to best respond to an extreme weather situation, and have conducted over 100 emergency drills with partners across the county – law enforcement, medical personnel, and other first responders. They have identified partners with facilities that could potentially serve as cooling centers, if needed. We are working to make sure facilities are prepared in the event of power outages – checking generator readiness and identifying pumping stations that can act as backup. We have also identified a list of critical facilities and submitted these to Centerpoint, who has assured us they will make every effort in an extreme weather event to minimize the loss of power to these buildings. We are also working with our Homeless Outreach team and partners to ensure the homeless community is well cared for.

You can assist our emergency team at home by taking care of yourself and your family. Be aware of the temperature when planning outdoor activities and drink plenty of fluids. Never leave children or pets in a car without air conditioning. Listen to trusted sources of information. If the state asks you to conserve energy over the summer, please do so. If you have a back-up generator, make sure it has enough fuel and test it regularly. This summer, keep cool and visit for the latest information and more Summer Weather tips.


Youth Justice Community Reinvestment Fund to Support Community Crime Prevention Programs

For decades, leaders have dealt with our broken criminal system by doubling down on “Tough on Crime” strategies – locking up non-violent offenders with mental health and substance issues instead of providing treatment, targeting communities of color instead of engaging them, and trying to mass incarcerate our way out of crime all while making weapons of war on our streets more accessible. These policies have had direct and dire consequences on our present day justice system – our criminal case backlog, the dangerous conditions inside our jails, the school to prison pipeline, and the revolving door of our criminal justice system. Our communities and our taxpayers deserve a better system – one that is smart on crime, not just tough on crime.  And that means investing in solutions that work to protect public safety, involve our communities in a meaningful way, and aim to prevent crime via research and data-based methods.

Last month, Commissioners Court approved Change Happens as the administrator of the Youth Justice Community Reinvestment Fund, a $4 million county fund to support at-risk youth and help prevent crime, the first of its kind in Texas. The fund will grow the work that non-profit organizations like Change Happens are already doing for our community, such as mentoring at-risk youth, supporting in-school and summer programs that lower youth engagement in risky behavior, providing drug education, and utilizing other strategies to help at-risk youth make healthy and safe decisions about their future.

The Youth Justice Community Reinvestment Fund is part of the historic $1.4 billion justice and public safety budget approved by Harris County Commissioners Court earlier this year – the largest amount ever allocated in Harris County history. This follows annual increases in budgets for every law enforcement agency in the county, including constables and the district attorney.


New VIPER Program to Alleviate Warrant Backlog While Targeting Violent Criminals with Outstanding Arrest Warrants

To correct the consequences of generations of criminal justice policies informed by ideology instead of research, fairness, and objective assessment, we must take a holistic look at the system and zero in on specific challenges even as we work to reform the system as a whole. One of those areas is the dangerous backog in warrants. In Harris County, there are over 50,000 backlogged warrants to arrest defendants. While it is normal to have thousands of warrants in our system due to people missing court dates or running from the law, our warrants have nearly doubled since 2019. Some of the warrants are for potentially dangerous defendants who are still out on the streets.  Among them, over 6,000 outstanding family violence warrants, 5,000 aggravated crime warrants, 3,000 sexual assault warrants, and over 700 murder warrants.

Last month, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioners Court approved the VIPER Program which will provide law enforcement $2.6 million to address the warrant backlog and keep our community safe by making sure wanted violent criminals are off the streets. The VIPER program will work in partnership with the Sheriff’s Office and Constables to create a new task force dedicated to apprehending defendants wanted for serious crimes. The program will include 21 newly created positions, funds equipment and vehicles, and works in partnership with the already existing Violent Criminal Apprehension Team at the Sheriff’s office and the federal Gulf Coast Task Force. VIPER is expected to clear as many as 2,000 warrants over the next 12 months, arresting around 100 dangerous offenders per month.


Harris County Celebrates Completion of Largest Harris County Flood Control Project on Brays Bayou

In May, Harris County cut the ribbon on the completion of the Brays Bayou Federal Flood Damage Reduction Project, the largest flood control program Harris County Flood Control District has ever undertaken. The $480 million project is part of Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioners Court’s aggressive push to provide flood control in ways that are fast, fair, and smart. Harris County and the Army Corps of Engineers equally split the cost of the project, which is estimated to have created close to 7,000 jobs.

The hundred mile long watershed impacts 767,000 residents and drains areas from Houston, Missouri City, Stafford, Bellaire, West University Place, Southside Place, and Meadows Place. The project has helped lower flood insurance rates for thousands of families, protects roadways and critical infrastructure such as the Texas Medical Center from flooding, and helps more water drain away from us into the Gulf. The benefits of Project Brays were evident after Tropical storm Beta, when thousands of homes in the watershed did not flood.

Since 2018, Harris County has tightened development standards in the county as much as legally possible, so upstream developments don’t flood downstream neighbors. The County is also buying out homes that flood repeatedly and turning them into green space, and has created a framework for post-disaster recovery, so recovery happens first in the areas that are worst hit, not just in those areas with big pockets or connections downtown. Over half (57%) of people served by Project Brays are low to moderate income residents.


Commissioners Court votes to Expand Workforce Program to Employ 160 Persons Experiencing Homelessness

While Harris County has worked hard to support our homeless population, achieving a 20% drop in our unhoused population over the past two years, there are many individuals still experiencing homelessness that need support and resources to enable them to acquire housing, mental health resources, and sustainable employment. Last month, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioner’s Court approved an agreement with local nonprofit Career and Recovery Resources, Inc to expand the Employ2Empower (E2E) Workforce program with over $1.6 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. E2E is a program geared towards helping individuals experiencing homelessness to build necessary pre-employment skills and advance along a path to housing stability. The program is structured as a low-barrier employment-first model that provides an opportunity for the unhoused population living in encampments to work for up to 32  hours a week earning $15 per hour removing graffiti, abating illegal dumping, and maintaining public and Harris County-owned properties.The expanded program is expected to employ approximately 160 unsheltered individuals living in encampments, and will also provide access to wrap-around service support.

Harris County Approves Acquisition of Electric Vehicles for Departments Across County

More Harris County Departments are going electric! In May, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioner’s Court approved a $1.38 million plan to purchase Electric Vehicles (EV) and charging stations for the Electric Vehicle Pilot project. The project seeks to acquire 19 EVs with associated charging infrastructure at multiple locations in the County for use and management by Harris County Engineering, Harris County Toll Road Authority, and Universal Services. The acquisition of these EVs will build upon the existing fleet electrification efforts first started by Harris County Pollution Control Services in 2021. The project will allow Harris County to study and verify reduced operational maintenance costs and reduced emissions of EVs compared to gas-powered vehicles, and help establish a framework for other departments to follow as they electrify their fleet. Based on availability and supply-chain issues, the proposed project is anticipated to be completed no later than calendar year 2024.

Initiative to to Connect Residents with Legal Resources By Installing Six LawPods in Libraries

Residents in need of legal assistance often don’t know where to start. Many, for example, may not be aware that Harris County offers various legal information resources via our Law Library, public libraries, and Justice of the Peace Courts. In an effort to bridge the digital divide for residents of underserved communities, self-represented litigants, and legal professionals, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioners Court approved the $270,000 LAWPod Initiative in May. The Initiative will install six self-contained, internet-connected meeting pods at four Harris County Public Library branches and its downtown location and connect residents of underserved communities to online legal resources and with legal aid providers, many of whom have transitioned to providing services exclusively through virtual platforms in the last two years. These LAWPods also will allow residents to connect with a law librarian at the Robert W. Hainsworth Law Library.

Four LAWPods will be installed at the following HCPL branches, each of which is near a Justice of the Peace Court where residents litigate eviction, small claims, and consumer cases:

Two more LAWPods will be installed at the Law Library’s downtown location.


Harris County Commissioners Court Passes Resolution Supporting Women’s Right to Abortion

For decades, advocates for women’s health and privacy have been warning that Roe v. Wade – the national precedent ensuring access to safe, secure abortion in America – was in danger.  Unfortunately, the Supreme Court draft opinion that was leaked in April, which would lead to the virtual abolition of abortion in Texas, proves these concerns were not unfounded. According to polls, twice as many Americans support Roe as oppose it. And here in Texas 78% of voters believe abortion should be available in some form. The consequences of repealing Roe vs. Wade would not only be disastrous for public health and women’s rights,  it is simply not what the majority of Americans or Texans believe is right. In April, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Commissioner’s Court approved a resolution that not only stands in support of women’s rights, but also calls on Congress to take immediate action to codify Roe and forever protect the long-enshrined rights outlined in that momentous 1973 decision. You can read the full resolution here.

Complete a Survey to Help Update the HGAC Regional Transportation Plan!

Our region is evolving, and how we approach transportation planning must evolve too. The Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) is planning for the region’s next 20 years by prioritizing safety, convenience, accessibility, and sustainability for the entire Gulf Coast region. You can help bring this vision to life by participating in the 2045 Regional Transportation Plan update by taking a digital survey here. Help H-GAC connect the dots to make getting around the region safer and better for generations to come.

Upcoming Events


Upcoming Commissioners Court Meetings

As part of the County Judge’s Office initiative to make local government more transparent and accessible, we invite you to get involved by viewing Commissioners Court meetings. You can check here to see the meeting schedule, and watch the official close captioned livestream here or on the Judge’s homepage here.

Upcoming Flood Control Bond Project Meetings

Harris County never stops preparing for the next big storm. And while the 2018 Harris County Flood Control District Bond Program is in full swing, we continue to seek input from community members as we implement projects in watersheds across the County. If you have a comment about a particular project, we invite you to attend the corresponding virtual meeting and be part of the planning process. Learn more about upcoming 2018 Bond Program Community Engagement Meetings here.

Hazardous Waste Collection Appointments

Do you have unwanted household hazardous items? Properly dispose of them by making an appointment with the Household Hazardous Waste Collections facility at 6900 Hahl Road in Houston. Learn what items are accepted and make an appointment here.


About Judge Hidalgo
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is the head of Harris County’s governing body and Director of the Harris County’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Judge Hidalgo, alongside four County Precinct Commissioners, oversees a budget of approximately $5 billion that funds services and institutions for the third-largest county in the nation, home to nearly 5 million people.
For more information about Harris County and the Office of the County Judge, click here.